11th February
    Leaving Phuket:

           Post regatta, we spent 3 days in Phuket based at the Ao Po marina at the foot of
    lovely Phang Na Bay – the errand and job list was long: pick up the sail repair, pick up the
    dinghy repair (the Honda idiots in Singapore had put 2 stoke fuel in our 4 stroke engine
    and stuffed the carburettor), provisioning for 5 weeks across 3 supermarkets, get a
    generator part welded, laundry, wash the boat and everything on and in it.  It was a
    frantically busy 3 days and Henry braved the crazy Phuket traffic with a hire car so that we
    could complete all the tasks, and we managed to fit in two ice-creams!   

    We had an unfortunate up-close-and-personal encounter with the bow anchor of a large
    power boat when leaving the marina, resulting in the smashing of our port side solar
    panel.  The lovely 20 mile sail south to Nai Harn bay was peppered by frantic phone calls
    around Phuket to try and secure another solar panel so as not to compromise our power
    generation ability, in particular to keep the beers cold!  Octopus marine – Mick Keely –
    came to the party with an in-stock panel which he delivered to the Phuket Yacht Club resort
    at 0930 the next morning.  We hitched a dinghy ride to shore, then a truck ride to the
    resort with a couple of curious Thais and picked up the panel.  We must have looked pretty
    incongruous on lovely Nai Harn beach: two yachties carrying a 4 x 2 foot cardboard box,
    standing ankle deep in the shallows waiting to board a long-tail boat…amongst all the semi-
    naked sun worshippers and beach combers.    As I write, Henry is busy getting it ready to
    install, in Port Blair (on the sole of the salon floor!).

           Our sail to the Andaman Islands took a smidge short of 72 hours.  Not entirely
    comfortable and not enough wind, so too much motor-sailing.  A highlight was a lovely
    escort of dolphins during the second morning.   And so was our passage to India.  Then
    into the throes of port entry:  the Brits invented bureaucracy, but the Indians have sure
    perfected it!

    February 14th 2012
    The Paperman Commeth!

    We dropped the hook into the official entry anchorage around 1000am.   The first officials
    to arrive were the Navy: all 6 of them, who sat in the cockpit and shuffled paper like a pack
    of cards.  Our boat was photographed; we were photographed, as was the chart table and
    electronic instrumentation. We exchanged papers, much rubber stamping went on, and
    they departed with a handshake.  About two hours later came Customs: these were the
    fellows we were a bit wary of as we were carrying over the limit of alcohol and we had heard
    that they made pointed requests for a gift of unopened whiskey (presumably to sell
    downstream).  They went through our copious prepared lists of provisions and booze and
    did make a request for whiskey, but we skipped over that, basically ignored it and were
    able to get away without a bribe.  Next came the Immigration Department – same round of
    paperwork and questions, lots more stamping and shuffling of paper.  Between these
    official visits we were trying to get the dinghy working so we could go to shore the next day,
    but, despite the recent service in Phuket, it was not co-operating.  The guys put their
    heads together and identified an issue with the fuel supply so that was our next project.
    The following day all four boats went to town for the Harbour-Masters visit – more
    meetings, paperwork and stamping!  Banks were visited and the girls hit the market for
    fresh produce!

    Feb 15-17
    Port Blair

    We are truly in India! Port Blair is everything that is the sub-continent of India – the smells,
    crazy traffic, honking cars, the 3-wheel Tuk-tuks (Auto-rickshaw), the 1956 style
    Ambassador cars,  women in colourful saris, the wandering holy cows and their associated
    dung: a bustling and random society going about its business.  Like the sub-continent, it
    fills every corner of your senses. After the Harbour master/bank/market adventure, we
    sought lunch, returned to the boats and then ventured out again for a terrific Indian dinner
    at the Emerald hotel that was amazingly in-expensive.  Worth mentioning is the wonderful
    Ravi: a local taxi driver who acts as a guide and concierge.  If you want it he can get it.  
    There are 100,000 people living in Port Blair – it is India’s eastern-most real estate and
    geographically is a mid-ocean ridge.  The island is populated by many government
    (defence), administrative and private businesses and probably houses the largest
    collection of ageing, shabby ships that we have ever seen.  There is one in particular:
    Warship – which parades the port announcing that it is the warship!  It appears to be of
    Second World War vintage.  We did some quick (not) internet emails on  some very old
    computers that did not recognise Microsoft Word documents and portrayed them as 1’s
    and 0’s and gave up on any internet surfing (we had wanted to do some research).   We
    are cruising with a fun bunch of friends: Rusalka (Kevan & Shiela with whom we do the
    Phang Na Bay regattas), Rascal (Carol & Gavin with whom we did the Raja Muda) and
    Smystery (Charlie and Susie with whom we’ve competed in past Kings Cups and Phang Na
    Bay regattas).   Basically, this is the Langkawi and Phuket group we have come to know
    well over the years.   They’re a talented and experienced group of sailors and a bunch of
    fun.

    Feb 20-21
    Havelock Island

    A 20 mile sail got us to a lovely turquoise clear water venue called Havelock.  This is the
    most commercialised island in the group, in that it is almost purely dedicated to resorts.  
    We use the term “resort” loosely here… these are mostly rustic backpacker places with
    only one or two that would be acceptable to our standards.  Yet we thoroughly enjoyed
    ourselves, once again at the open vegetable market, the small shabby town with everyone
    in Indian clothing.  The island is very green, as are most of the Andaman’s, and one
    outstanding thing about Havelock was the forest of big trees that occupied all the fore-
    shore: they are truly magnificent.  The one downside was the beach landings in the dinghy:
    all appears smooth but there is a sandbar and dip just preceding the shore, which
    generates a fast one meter high wave.  Not a bother if you’re swimming and a delight if you’
    re surfing, but dinghy landings and departures – watch out!   All but one of our dinghy
    party was pooped, dumped on and rolled resulting in wet everything.  Our dinghy engine –
    which we had got working in Port Blair, got a good dose of salt water during a pooping and
    struggled to start for the return journey, resulting in us having to row and eventually get
    towed back to Dreamcatcher by Smystery’s dinghy.   We had then gone to shore the next
    night in Rascal’s dinghy, made it ok, but had an awful surf-battered departure, got
    completely soaked and the dinghy half full of water.  We had to try and drain it at the water’
    s edge between waves, as it was too heavy to drag.  It took us another half an hour on the
    beach getting it sorted out, then we eventually got under way, a very sorry salty lot!   Ah,
    the joys of cruising!

    Feb 22, 2012

           The group weighed anchor at 1000 and motored around the corner to Laccam
    Harbour, on the north of Havelock Island.  A squeezy anchorage amidst small wooden
    fishing boats and a couple of industrial ferries.  Sadly, we couldn’t get the dinghy engine
    going – Henry spent the best part of 3 hours on it: very frustrating.  GT did go to shore with
    one of the other dinghies and had a quick Indian lunch in the town overlooking the
    anchorage (at the restaurant that had lost its liquor license and was “dry”).  We managed
    to smuggle some gin in a water bottle and topped up the multiple 7-Ups we’d ordered.  
    Henry got yelled at by a ferry boat driver for anchoring too close to the channel (mind you,
    if he couldn’t get his boat into the large space, he shouldn’t have been a ferry captain
    anyway!).  India, and thus, the Andaman’s, governs liquor very tightly – it’s hard for the
    locals to obtain and what bars there are are hidden away and operated in dimly lit rooms
    with a strong sense of “taboo”.  The girls took another trip to the Havelock market and
    bought some more wonderful fresh veggies, and then all boats weighed anchor mid-
    afternoon, bound for Kwantung Strait, between Havelock and Henry Lawrence island.   We
    had a lovely dinner aboard Rusalka in deep green water opposite and attractive cliff
    shoreline.

           One downside of the Andaman’s is that the swimming and snorkelling has not really
    been an option, due to an increase in the crocodile population.  The Tsunami of 2004
    wreaked havoc with the Andaman’s: 40,000 lives, or 10% of the population perished and
    the islands themselves were physically shaken up and shifted up to half a mile in different
    directions.  This is why sailing here is challenging, as the navigational charts are “fictional”
    and “useless” according to pilot guides and prior cruisers.  The charts are a combination of
    1857 Indian surveys and a 2001 British Admiralty hydrographic survey, both pre-tsunami,
    so everything’s a bit of a gamble and depths vary widely from those stated on the chart,
    sometimes by as much as 20 meters. The natural mangrove habitat of crocodiles was
    physically changed so that the crocs have changed location, closer to the human
    settlements, and whilst we haven’t seen any to date, we’re not keen on an up close and
    personal encounter!

    Feb 23, 2012
    Inglis, Outram and Long Islands

    Our cruising pals – all of whom have been to the Andaman’s before – set a cracking pace
    and this was the day we anchored in 3 different locations!  Dreamcatcher’s cruising style
    prefers at least a 2 night stop and more if the local scene is interesting.  Nevertheless we
    join in and head to Inglis Island – a bright white sand and blue water stop.  Henry tackles
    the dinghy engine again, but no go.  As the wind picks up we decide to weigh anchor after
    a couple of hours and head to Outram Island.   We drop the hook in 20 meters opposite a
    lovely looking island, but it is too late to go ashore, and we have a lovely dinner aboard
    Rascal.   A big plus about the Andaman’s, brought about by its’ remoteness (400 miles
    from Calcutta and 400 miles from Phuket, Thailand), is that there are very few boats here.  
    The most we have seen is 10, in the Port Blair check-in anchorage, so it is still very much
    an undiscovered cruising ground.  There is some tourism, but low-key back-packer type
    and the Indian mind-set is not about tourism…. Here, it is largely defence.  Tourism could
    be a big money-spinner for the Andamans, positioned as India’s Hawaii – but the
    infrastructure and mind-set is not there.

    Feb 23

    We arrive in Long Island after a 18-20 knot slog on the nose, and drop anchor in 5 meters
    near a steep shaley beach.  A lovely dinner aboard the Rascal puts us all to bed, very
    tired.  We have, at this point had to accept the fact that our dinghy engine is not working,
    which makes us dependent on the other boats for lifts to shore and back.  But there is
    nothing we can do – there are no mechanics or engine shops around and Kevin off
    Rusalka has looked at it with Henry, and pronounced it temporarily dead.  The lovely folks
    from Smystery took us to shore the next morning for a walk around this pretty island,
    population 1500.  Long Island had a prior industry of boat building: this stopped when
    logging was banned in the Andamans and the community needed to be subsidised.  Hence
    there is this neat, little village with lots of uniformed officialdom!  It always strikes us too that
    tiny societies like this, are able to keep their school children beautifully uniformed and tidy,
    whereas first world western countries’ school kids tend to look like a bunch of dishevelled
    brats!  We have some lovely photos of the school girls, with long looped plaited pig-tails,
    complete with bows, doing their homework in dad’s chai shop.

    Long Island was neat, pretty and organised.  We met the chief of Police on his request, to
    sign in and on arrival he was dressed in just a wrap sarong.  He went into a room, changed
    into long grey pants and white shirt (really, just for us!) and summoned several of his
    staff.   Our visits attract a lot of attention from the local officials and they treat the whole
    process with a great degree of formality.  There is much rustling of papers, stamping of
    stamps and formal hand-shaking.  Goats, cows and a donkey populated the Long Island
    sports field and the whole place exhibited rustic, ramshackle wooden houses, many of
    which were water-front with billion dollar views.   There is no glass available for Long Island,
    so everything is made from wood or scraps of wire and twine washed up on the beach, and
    nobody has any normal windows.

    We bought some veggies from a lovely wizened elderly Indian man, and he was very
    grateful for our custom and asked us to come again.  Once more, another order of take-
    away Samosas from the only “restaurant” in town.  They had 3 choices for breakfast, 2 for
    lunch and 1 for dinner!  They had one table and it was surrounded by scratching chickens
    and the occasional goat as well as several of the villagers who came to look at the
    “foreigners” drinking their chai.   While we were conscious that we were a curiosity, we
    never ever felt threatened or uncomfortable.  These are good people.  A walk to the top of
    the hill took us to the hospital where Charlie had gone a couple of years prior to attend a
    minor injury.  We spoke to the lady doctor for some time – very interesting.
    This is where we had long discussions with our cruising pals as to whether to go west
    through the Homfrey Straits (with an uncertain overhead power line height) or to stay on
    the eastern side of the Andamans.  The former offered an exciting trip through a river-like
    path to the western side of North Andaman island, and a passage up to remote and
    unpopulated Interview Island and then a subsequent choice to return to the east side the
    same way, or go “over the top” – a somewhat hazardous trip.  We opted to stay on the east
    side, along with Rascal, who had valid concerns over the height of her 23 meter mast….
    And so the little fleet split two and two, with an agreement to meet up in Port Cornwallis on
    the NE corner of N. Andaman Islands four days hence.


    Feb 24
    Rangat Bay

    The Rascals and we set off mid-morning for the 8 mile on-the-nose (wind) drive to Rangat
    Bay.  It’s a small sheltered port behind a substantial  breakwater.  We anchored between
    the breakwater and the big concrete ferry dock, in calm water.  Henry and Gavin went
    ashore with the essential paperwork and met the Port Captain who apparently was a
    charming fellow who ordered Fanta’s all round.  The four of us then proceeded to town.  All
    these land based outings are preceded by a dinghy landing – many of which are a 10 on
    the scale of “degree of difficulty”.  There are few jetties at which one would risk leaving one’
    s dinghy, as what jetties exist, are built for mid-sized ferries.  At Rangat, we chose to use
    the cement fishing boat ramp and conned the dinghy into the murky shallows, between the
    fishing canoes and avoiding the coral bombies.  When we finally got in shallow enough to
    get over the side, we ended up in squishy mud.  Carol went in up to her knees and thus
    lost both shoes!  With some effort and frustration, we managed to get the dinghy up the
    slippery, fish-scale covered ramp and parked on the concrete.  This immediately attracted
    a crowd of admiring kids and some adults, who were fascinated with the dinghy and its’
    engine.  As we passage further north in the Andamans, it’s apparent that few yachts reach
    here.  Rangat Bay is not exactly the garden spot of the world either and is not able (and
    has probably not tried) to attract the backpacker or sub-continent Indian tourists that some
    of the other islands.  Nevertheless, after a hairy and cramped taxi ride into the town we
    managed to find a shoe shop to get Carol some footwear, and after which, found the
    markets.  It is surprising how good the vegetables are in the Andamans:  Fruit tends to be
    limited to small bananas and small local mangoes, but the vegetables are plentiful, fresh
    and plump.  Almost all vegies, and certainly those used in Indian cooking, are available.  
    There are a few “general stores” selling tinned and packaged food, lentils and bottled
    water, but not much else apart from the one-man roadside stalls cooking up samosas,
    bhajis and other spicy treats.  There was a small fish market in Rangat, but the fish – whilst
    likely caught that morning – looked awful covered in flies! We’re told that’s a good sign and
    that fish without flies has likely been wiped down with bleach and may be at least a day
    old.  Nevertheless, we passed on the protein and had an early night aboard in preparation
    for our o-dark-hundred departure for Maya Bandar.

    Feb 24-26
    Maya Bandar (or Bundar)

    I hate these early starts (Henry likes them), but it makes so much sense to get under way
    early, ensuring a lunchtime arrival and the opportunity to explore the local town. The
    recommended anchorage in Maya Banda looked idyllic (white sand, blue water, coconut
    palms) but was exposed to the NNE winds and surrounded by coral reef, and was
    untenable as an overnight anchorage. So, Rascal and Dreamcatcher spent about an hour
    wandering through this expansive harbour and finally dropped the hook near the ship
    dock.  Not a terrific outlook, but behind us was quite pretty – water and mangrove covered
    islands.  Gavin had discovered an excellent landing point that didn’t require getting wet up
    to thigh level: we tied on to a very rusty old coast guard boat that clearly hadn’t gone
    anywhere for some time, were able to walk across that onto a large floating pontoon, then
    a leap across the water to some concrete steps on to the large ship dock.  All a bit
    agricultural, and close to life-threatening at night, but nice not to get wet.   Unfortunately,
    by the time we’d done this two or three times, the white canvas cover on Rascal’s dinghy
    was filthy with rusty footprints.  We all liked Maya Bandar: it is the official capital of the
    North Andaman region and thus peppered with official residences and administrative
    offices, and cleaner than other towns we’d seen.  The Indians love their bureaucracy and
    we were “accosted” on the dock on our first arrival by some bloke who said he was a
    policeman and wanted all our details.  He had no uniform, badge, no ledger book (and they
    love their ledger books!).  Anyway, after about 30 mins of him hand writing down everything
    that we had already told Port Control (don’t these guys talk to each other?!) we were
    allowed to explore the town.  It was very pleasant (by Indian standards) and we found
    several vegetable sellers and samosa cookers.  We did discover a great restaurant (the
    only one in town) and dined there both nights, it was soooo good! And inexpensive.  The
    concept of a restaurant as we know it, is very new in this part of the world.  Fortunately this
    place was run by a lovely Burmese couple who understood good food and tried their best
    to deliver an excellent meal.  The notion of a bar is also embryonic, as is the notion of
    keeping drinks cold.  The Kingfisher beers were cool but not cold: perhaps some of this
    had to do with the power black-outs Maya Bandar experienced while we were there.  The
    other thing we discovered is that these northern Andamanians don’t believe in light beer:
    every beer available is a strong 8.8% alcohol Kingfisher – we all got knocked on our butts
    the first couple of drink rounds!  But we did enjoy this town of about 10,000 people. We
    were committed to sail one more port north to Port Cornelius, the next morning but Henry
    had an awful inflammation develop in his ankle, was in a lot of pain and running a fever.  
    This was from an injury sustained during the Phang Na Bay regatta 3 weeks prior that had
    never healed properly and had now developed in to septicaemia.  So, off we went to the
    Maya Bandar hospital.  What an experience – a 30 bed untidy but clean hospital with
    queues of Indians at every window and door.  One had to queue for a slip which then
    entitled one to join the queue to see the doctor.  The doctor’s door was left open, no
    privacy, and we were escorted in while he was tending to the prior patient.  Of course, we
    stuck out like sore thumbs, being foreigners and were quickly queue-jumped by the Indian
    hospital administrators to first served.  We found this unnecessary and embarrassing as
    we were quite prepared to queue and did not wish to be seen as being superior to the
    locals.  Nevertheless they insisted on ushering Henry in first to see a very smart doctor,
    who recommended an x-ray, anti-biotics and all the things we expected.  It was a positive
    and ultra-interesting experience to be in the grips of an Indian hospital, in one of the
    remotest island groups of the world.  We tried to pay but were assured several times it was
    not necessary as it was a “Government Hospital” and that all services and medications
    were free.  So, consultation, x-ray and drugs, for nothing, and out in under an hour.  We
    celebrated with some Indian spicy donuts and a lovely noodle lunch aboard Rascal and
    then sent Henry to bed to recover for the rest of the day.

    Feb 26-27, 2012
    Diglipur/Port Cornwallis

    An early start set us on yet another 20 mile passage due north to Diglipur.  Through all
    these short passages, one is required to report the boat’s and other details by HF radio at
    0800 and 1700.  The rationale for this is a mix between a 19th century commitment to
    bureaucracy and a need from a defence standpoint, as the Andaman function is primarily
    that.  I’m sure we gave them heartburn as they were trying to track down these four
    itinerant sailboats.  Unfortunately, it was another upwind slog on the nose, and as we
    wanted to be there mid-afternoon to ensure a planned rendezvous with Rusalka and
    Smystery, we ended up bashing to windward much of the way.  Unfortunately we had
    backed over the dinghy painter while anchoring Dreamcatcher and succeeded in putting 4
    wraps around the prop shaft (groan).   Both Henry and I tried to free it by taking turns in
    the water with snorkels, after being told this was a “no crocodile” environment by the port
    captain.  Kevan afterwards slashed the line off with a breadknife, only to be told later that a
    large croc had in fact been sighted at the wharf a few weeks prior (Yikes!).   We had lovely
    re-union drinks aboard Dreamcatcher, swapped stories of where they’d been and what we’
    d done for the prior 4 days, and then headed off to dinner at the only restaurant in
    Diglipur, about 8 km from the anchorage.  These Andaman drivers only have one speed:
    flat out, and once again, a hair-raising ride, in more ways than one: the cars here have no
    windows.  We left the anchorage next morning and sought permission to anchor off Ross
    and Smith islands: pretty islands joined by a sparkling 200 meter wide sand spit.  We
    dropped anchor and went ashore in Rascal’s dinghy to clean the Maya Bandar rust
    footprints off, and to enjoy a swim.  More Indian bureaucracy – we weren’t allowed to land
    or swim there unless we had (yet another) permit and 500 rupees ($15) per person.  This
    piece of delightful real estate – about 200 x 30 meters – had no less than 3 Indian officials:
    they (and Gavin) spent a lot of time on the phone reporting us and seeking to allow us to
    stay there for a few hours.  Permission denied, so we begrudgingly re-boarded the dinghy
    and returned to the boats, albeit lingering on the way to admire the sea turtles and manta
    rays swimming in the shallow water.  Tourism in the Andamans is definitely NOT top of
    mind!     We remained at anchor is this pretty spot overnight and turned south-bound.
    An interesting factoid discovered by Rusalka (during afternoon tea with the Police at
    Landfall Island, where they had never ever seen a sailboat..) …was that the Coco Islands
    that geophysically appear as part of the Andamans, are in fact Burmese, but the Burma
    junta has leased them both to China. So, China has a defence holding in the Indian Ocean:
    you bet the Indians are happy about that NOT)!

    Feb 27/8
    Maya Bandar (second time around)

    Enroute into this generous bay, Carol caught her first fish.  This small fleet are expert
    fishers – particularly Susie on Smystery – and many fishing tales were exchanged and
    photos proudly shown. Rusalka had also caught about 4 :  Dreamcatcher remains fish-less
    at this point.   Rascal and we stopped at Alves Island (the recommended anchorage we
    found untenable earlier in the week) on the way in.  The wind was less than before and the
    island was very pretty: acqua water, inshore reef, white sand and a semi-commercial
    coconut plantation.  There were two occupants - older men of very small stature – not
    Indian Indians, but likely origins from one of the Andaman tribal groups.  We had a short
    chat with them, a walk along the beach and a lovely swim before returning to our prior
    anchorage.

    By now, we and Rascal were the “experts” on Maya Bandar, having spent 3 nights there
    enroute north.   Also, by now, Henry’s ankle had shown some improvement, but not enough
    and it swelled and reddened again badly after our arrival.  Both the drugs and the general
    fighting of the infection made him listless, and it was very hot.  The Rusalkans spurred us
    into going back to the hospital and getting another course of anti-biotics.  On arrival, the
    hospital was deserted – a contrast to our last visit.  Deserted, that is, except for two holy
    cows who were happily grazing undisturbed in what was the cross between the garden and
    a construction site (for the extensions).   We eventually saw another very good doctor who
    gave Henry  much more powerful anti-biotics than the first lot and instructions to rest and
    elevate the leg for the next week.  Hmm.   In Henry’s own words “they knocked me on my
    arse”!    

    GT visited the town again with Smystery, shopped for veggies and eggs and enjoyed a
    samosa and local soft drink with them.  Samosa’s have been our staple snack on much of
    the voyage and we are now experts on pastry and fillings of same!

    Buttoned Up!
    Feb 28 North Button Island.

    There are 3 Buttons: north, middle and south.  The latter two are not navigable for
    anchoring but do provide good visual waypoints.  North Button is about the size of 3 tennis
    courts and as pretty as a picture.  Rascal approached from the west, we from the east,
    giving the extremes a very wide berth.  We found our way into 11 meters of bright acqua
    blue water and dropped the hook facing a heavily treed white limestone cliff, backing a
    bright white sand beach.   Absolutely lovely!  GT went ashore with the Rascals and swam
    and beach-combed a bit until the sand flies took a liking to us, then it was back in the
    dinghy, enroute to Dreamcatcher where we hosted dinner for the fleet that night.  Another
    great evening, happily passing out about 2200.   Everyone’s wine/booze stocks are holding
    up well despite us giving them a good bash each night and we seem to have the best ice-
    cube system so are happy to supply ice blocks to the hosting dinner boat.   We are not
    lacking for anything – this is a 5-star cruise, particularly in the F&B department! We are
    humbled by the culinary skills of the other 3 boats (read, Ladies aboard same) and hope
    we just got a pass mark on the cocktail/dinner delivery.    We reluctantly followed the other
    boats when they departed the next morning: we could have stayed another couple of days
    swimming and simply staring at this idyllic tropical island.

       Feb 29 – Leap Day
    Havelock #7 – again

    The other 3 boats swung into Laccam Harbour (north end of Havelock) again, for lunch
    and provisions, but we chose to go straight to Havelock 7 as we weren’t keen on the
    Laccam anchorage: squeezy, reefy and noisy with local ferry operators.  Plus it would have
    meant a beach landing for Henry, whose ankle still had an open wound and was looking
    angry, albeit improved from two days prior.   We anchored at Havelock in 8 meters of deep
    turquoise water, GT had a swim, clean up and we stared at the amazing forest on the
    beach once again.  We were dining aboard Smystery, having all agreed on not going
    ashore, given the all-too-exciting dinghy landings.  We were up early the next day, around
    0630 (it’s light here at 0500) and to our delight saw an elephant bathing with his mahout, in
    the shallows!  We knew there were elephants on Havelock as we’d had to step around the
    dung piles enroute to the “resort” on our first visit, so seeing this one frolicking – if you can
    imagine an elephant frolicking – was a real treat.  He was medium sized, with well
    developed tusks and spent nearly an hour in the water, sometimes doing a complete 360
    roll – it was funny to see 4 legs and one trunk pointing skywards from the sea!  It really was
    a magical sight – pale blue dawn sky, a forest of magnificent trees, aqua blue water, and
    one very happy elephant.
    The flotilla weighed anchor soon after breakfast, bound south to Chiryatapu.

    March 1
    Chiryatapu, South Andaman Island

    This was the culmination of a 36 mile sail/motor from Havelock 7.  It was a lovely blue-sky
    day with some wind in our favour, some not.  This anchorage is a big, accommodating
    circular inlet – likely the ridges of a very old volcano.  As we turned in, the wind kicked up
    to 15 knots (now!!?).  There is a low flat rock (about 10 meters in diameter) that is barely
    visible above the surface and we had a visual on it coming in, but lost it in the wind-waves –
    a bit concerning.  The rock is on the Admiralty charts, but in the wrong place by about 200
    meters, so, when we eventually sighted it again gave it a wide berth and anchored in 15
    meters.  This is a lovely calm anchorage off a small beach that was populated by half a
    dozen thatched huts and a collection of cars – Sunday afternoon visitors – as this location
    is reachable by road from Port Blair.  We didn’t go ashore, but watched the shoreline
    activities from the boat.  It’s interesting watching ladies wading in sari’s!  One thing we
    noted is that in all the Andamans, no women wear anything but traditional Indian sari or
    salwar kameez: unlike the cities on the mainland where some women (particularly business
    women) have gone for western garb. One noticeable feature of the beach here was a
    number of very large, dead, fallen trees.  These are the same magnificent trees that line
    the waterfront and hills of many Andaman islands.  They are truly handsome and we will try
    to find out their species when in Port Blair.  As a result of the 2004 earthquake that
    caused  the Tsunami, the southern Andamans dropped and the northern Andamans were
    lifted so now the whole chain tilts, so, these trees were tipped into the ocean’s edge where
    they lie today as huge grey-white skeletons.  There has been no attempt to remove them
    nor saw them up.  Let sleeping trees lie. We liked this anchorage a lot and look forward to
    a return.


    March 2-3
    In Cinque

    We had a great 10 knot breeze when we exited the Chiriyatapu anchorage and put all sails
    up for the 14 mile sail south to North Cinque island.  The pair – north and south Cinque’s
    are the southern-most of the South Andaman Island group and are nearly joined together
    by a reef.   All Andaman islands are surrounded by reef, and as mentioned before, some
    inaccurately charted and not showing the Tsunami shift effect of 2004, so every new
    anchorage brings a little uncertainty and stress along with it.  We’re fortunate that our
    cruising companions have been to many of these spots before and are able to give us
    some guidance.  We dropped the hook in Minto Bay and settled in for the afternoon and
    ensuing evening on Rusalka: we’ve been sharing the hosting of dinners and doing the
    rounds of each boat.  The host boat provides the party platform, all the drinks,  the main
    course, the quiz for the evening (yes, really!) and the other boats bring a contribution of
    starters, desert or a main course support dish.  We’ve had some truly outstanding feasts
    and really enjoyable evenings!  The anchorage was a bit rolly as the wind has not been
    behaving and coming from its’ promised NE direction.  That triggered us to leave early the
    next morning for a 3 mile motor around the corner to South Cinque island.   This
    anchorage was pristine, aqua blue water over pure white sand surrounded by heavily treed
    hills and yet again we had it to ourselves.  One GT couldn’t resist the urge to jump in and
    swam the 250 meters to shore, through an exciting surf break.  It was nice to walk on the
    beach for an hour and I enjoyed the swim back to Rusalka who were happy to provide a
    beer and chat before the return swim to Dreamcatcher.  Around 4pm, this lovely anchorage
    too became rolly and the armada made a quick decision to up anchor, accompanied by a
    dolphin pod, and motor 5 miles around the southern end of South Cinque and back up the
    other (eastern) side of North Cinque where Smystery hosted another lovely dinner and
    another great quiz.   Time to return to our respective boats as the swell came up : we had a
    pretty scary boarding from Rascal’s dinghy onto Dreamcatcher and spent the night rolling
    from side to side in a very uncomfortable seaway.  Apparently earlier trips that our cruising
    companions had done were much calmer and dinghy landings on the beach were possible
    – not this time.  Nevertheless, the morning was calmer and spent snorkelling over the reef
    sighting at least two dozen varieties of beautifully marked and coloured tropical fish.  It is
    quite remarkable to be in a place of zero population, as are many of the Andaman islands.  
    Also quite unique not to sight any other sail boats for weeks at a time.  Mid afternoon, we
    set sail again, returning to Chiryatapu on the start of our passage north to Port Blair to
    start the wind-down and exit process from the Andamans.  The Chiryatapu anchorage
    offered a welcome calm after the rolly Cinque’s.  We dined aboard Rascal, again, another
    great evening and all turned in early for a long, deep sleep.
    While we don’t want this adventure to end, a stores inventory revealed we’re getting close
    the finish of our fresh goods: only 4 litres of drinking water, no bread and only 1 egg left, all
    veggies except the onions and garlics are all used up.  So, Port Blair markets, here we
    come!!

    Ross Island and Port Blair
    March  8/9

    Ross Island is right next door to Port Blair and apparently a very interesting place, being  
    the British HQ, a prison and Japanese holding in past years.  We were given permission to
    anchor by Port Control but were knocked back from entering the island by the Forestry
    management: more Indian rules!! Despite phone conflabs with various officials we were
    turned back, on the basis it was the day before a public holiday.  What we did see was the
    herd of spotted deer (some with handsome antlers) that populated the front lawn.  Very
    odd seeing Christmas-card type deer in the middle of the tropical Indian Ocean.  On our
    return to Port Blair, the wonderful Ravi met us at the dock and we did some rounds of  
    shopping, lunch, more samosas etc.  About half the shops were closed due to the Holi day,
    the Indian festival where they pelt each other with coloured paint.  There were brightly
    coloured splotches all over the pavement and many of the younger men were simply
    technicoloured.  We arranged diesel fuel with Ravi for delivery to the dock the following
    day, in preparation for our departure to the Similan Islands (Thailand).  This is where the
    hassle started.

    March 10 & 11
    Port Blair departure

    If we haven’t said enough positive things about Ravi – let us state it again: a wonderful
    human being, humble, completely honest, unbelievably helpful and just so easy to work
    with.  Rascal needed 400 litres of fuel, Dreamcatcher 250.  We gave the money to Ravi to
    purchase the fuel and deliver to the docks the next morning.  He did so  and arrived with 44
    gallon drums and jugs on the back of an auto-rickshaw, and we all helped Rascal to get
    into the inner harbour, tie up and start taking on fuel.  About 15 minutes later, 3 Customs
    officers arrived and made a big nasty scene about us breaking the law and illegally
    exporting fuel.  Dreamcatcher’s name was on the receipt so Henry was given a particularly
    hard time.  They seemed to be on an absolute witch hunt and were unbelievably rude and
    belligerent.  By now a crowd had drawn to see we foreigners being berated.  They cut off
    the fuel supply to Rascal, impounded the remaining fuel and told us to report to the
    Customs office for punishment.  We waited, fretting, for ages and then Gavin, Henry and
    GT spent 2 hours discussing this terrible crime of illegal export that we had committed,
    amidst ongoing threats of arrest, jail and retention of vessels.  It was unnerving and we
    were in a lose-lose situation.  There is apparently a “process” for taking on more than
    about 5 litres (hand carry) of fuel, which is ridiculous as  Ravi had pointed out, every boat
    leaving the Andamans had to re-fuel to get anywhere, the closest land being 400 miles
    away.  We went to-ing and fro-ing with the customs officials, were made to write statements
    of confession and apology and put in very compromised positions.  Next, they came after
    Ravi, accusing him of being an illegal supplier, also with a threat of jail.   The bottom line is
    that they were highly corrupt jerks who were on a witch-hunt and if they couldn’t convict us,
    they wanted Ravi.  They also tried to accuse us of currency fraud, claiming we had paid for
    the fuel in US dollars (it is illegal to bring in foreign currency or Rupees purchased
    overseas to the Andamans)…. which we hadn’t and were able to produce all the ATM chits
    for the rupees we had used to purchase the fuel.    We had a stressful, awful day.  
    Customs finally cleared the fuel for release at sunset, after extracting a “fine” from Ravi
    (read, bribe) and we retired, stressed out, to a final Andaman dinner at the Emerald hotel
    and an agreement to do the re-fuelling in the morning via the laborious jerry-can approach
    as we did not wish to bring the boats alongside the dock again, in case Customs were
    tempted to impound them.   We later found out that a fellow called Vijay, who purports to
    provide a similar service to Ravi, had called Customs and reported the fuelling.  Vijay does
    not speak good English and thus uses an agent to help clear in yachts, much to their
    surprise when they get a big bill on departure.  Vijay is a “snake in the grass” and to be
    avoided.  All other officials : Immigration, Port Captain and Coast Guard were fine – it was
    Customs who were highly corrupt and we will be taking the matter further.
    It took several hours to re-fuel the following day, sharing jerry-cans between the two boats
    and Smystery helping with their dinghy.  We all got away early afternoon, on a fine breeze,
    bound for the Similan Island group in Thailand.

    March 12/13/14
    Going Home

    We’ve been away from home, our puss-cats, Jane and our Singapore friends for more than
    2 months and were very ready for the homeward bound leg.  About 100 miles out of Port
    Blair, at 0930, Henry yelled out from the helm “We’ve got no steering”…...  We had broken
    our main steering chain cable, with 300 miles to go to the Similans.  Dreamcatcher
    immediately hove to and we got out the emergency steering tiller.  It took about an hour to
    get it “right”  and from then on we had to hand steer the boat using the big 4 x 2 wooden
    tiller from the deck at the stern.  We radioed Rascal on our 12 noon sched, told her of our
    plight and she turned around from 25 miles in front and came back to escort us the
    remaining 300 miles into the Similans.  We cannot begin to say how grateful we were for
    her actions, and how much we cherished her stern light during the two dark nights that
    followed.  The first night we encountered one of the worst electrical storms any of the
    yachts had been through – a large horse-shoe shaped  depression that closed in around
    us.  Pelting rain and blinding lightning that made it difficult for us to keep our eye on Rascal
    as we wove around trying to find an exit from the storm.  The tiller steering was hard on our
    arms and hand and impossible to keep a course : we tried using both hand bearing
    compasses and the hand-held GPS’s to keep to the rhumb line to no avail: difficult to read
    and impossible at night.  The only way we could keep any sort of course integrity was to
    follow another yacht.   Rascal piloted us into the Similan Islands, exhausted, and we
    dropped the hook between two islands at 42 meters depth, the deepest we have ever
    anchored, but we simply couldn’t go any further.  We had a beer, crashed out, and mid
    afternoon the Rascals and Smystery crews came over to sympathise, offer their heartfelt
    congratulations that we had made it, and helped to escort us to a safe mooring bouy.   This
    was the first time in nearly 3 days that we were able to breathe easy and relax.  We found
    that the continuous holding ice cold cans of beer helped the swelling in our hands to go
    down.  We had a great final Andaman Adventurers dinner aboard Rascal, sans Rusalka
    who had needed to leave days earlier and had escaped the Customs debacle.   We loved
    the little we saw of the Similan Islands and are keen to go back.
    Early the following morning we had Smystery as our escort, for the 60 miles emergency
    tiller steering into Kamala beach in Phuket.  That’s their home anchorage, and we knew
    Phuket would be a better resource center for the steering parts and fixing the problem,
    than Langkawi.  We stayed aboard Dreamcatcher that night and took off on our own the
    following morning to Nai Harn bay in the south of Phuket, where Kevan & Sheila keep
    Rusalka.   We anchored close by and Kevan came over to start what was a 2 day
    exhausting fix of Dreamcatcher’s steering.  We’ve been able to stay at their villa for the
    past two nights – a welcome respite from the boat and a chance for the swelling in our
    hands to go down.  We are very fortunate to have such good friends, and if Karma has
    anything to do with it, at some point we will be able to return the favours in some way.
    During the two day fixing, we were able to pick up Rascal’s new spinnaker from Rolly
    Tasker in Phuket and gave it (and the old torn one) a lift down to Langkawi.    There was
    no wind enroute, and we wanted to ensure course integrity with the hundreds of fishing
    boats and trawlers that populate the stretch between Phuket and Langkawi; we were still a
    little spooked about the steering mechanism.  
    An early arrival next morning saw us into Telaga Harbour marina in Langkawi, once again
    next to our Singapore neighbours Olivia!  We looked for the two little kitties we had
    encountered on our way up and they weren’t to be found: we hope someone found them
    as appealing as we did, and they are enjoying a lovely home and a thoroughly spoilt
    lifestyle.  We despatched our 18 kilos of dirty laundry to the washing lady, and had a
    relaxing first day. Drinks and dinner with the Rascals at their lovely home followed, and we
    are replete.
    Mark & Julie arrived from Singapore a day later and we played with them for several days,
    visiting marinas, getting way-too-smashed on long island teas at their hotel, and generally
    had a fun time with them.  The 24th March  saw our departure from Langkawi, for the 450
    mile south passage into Singapore.  It was mostly uneventful, with the exception of two
    nights dodging fishing boats.  The Malacca Straits passage delivers 3 nights at sea (unless
    one does coastal day hopping which would make it a 6 day trip).  On approaching
    Singapore, we encountered a pretty violent white squall that lasted nearly 2 hours and
    pulled out of the shipping lane to do figure-of-eights in the ship anchorage while waiting for
    the squall to pass and provide us with the visibility needed to negotiate the busiest port in
    the world.  We were welcomed back into our original berth in our marina, and very happy to
    be home (without a repeat steering failure!).  A couple of drinks, followed by a 12 hour
    sleep was the order of the evening.  It is really nice to be back.

    The end of the Andamans Cruise
    ..
    We really enjoyed it.  A lot of that was due to the great fun & supportive company we sailed
    with.  And India is always an amazing experience…… here’s some highlight points:
    -        Samosas are one of the five main food groups
    -        If you don’t like Indian food, don’t go (we LOVE it!)
    -        Patience, Patience, Patience, is required when dealing with the Indian administration
    -        The Andaman’s homes one of the world’s finest and honourable gentleman: Ravi
    -        Possibly some of the planet’s most amazing trees (and we’ve seen the Redwood
    forests)
    -        The Sari is likely the most beautiful garment in the world: Indian ladies are like
    sparkling, colourful gemstones moving through the diaspora of everything else that is India.
    -        Get used to drinking 8.8% strength beer (Holy Cow!)
    -        Get used to being the only boat in an anchorage (Yea!)
    -        Get used to “snappy” swims in case of crocodiles!
    -        “Lamb” is really goat.  “Mutton” is really goat.  “Beef” is really goat.
    -        Kudos to this third world (island) country, for banning all logging and commercial
    fishing.

    We wish the Andaman Islands (and India) a wonderful future – and – no more Tsumani’s.

DREAMCATCHER VOYAGE
Andaman Island Adventure 2012

Flotilla of: Dreamcatcher, Rascal, Rusalka and Smystery
AKA: The Andaman Adventurers
OUCH................this hurts!!!
G. T. on the emergency tiller. One hour
on and one off. We did this for 52
hours.....not fun, but we managed.